October 13th, 2008
The ‘Boston’ cocktail mystery
There are a bunch of old cocktails with Boston in their name — Boston Cooler, Boston Sour, Boston Special — but, as I mentioned in a previous post about this matter, I have no intel on what makes a cocktail a Boston cocktail. I mean, it’s weird; there are other drinks named after cities, most notably the Manhattan, but also the Frisco, the Saratoga and the Toronto. These are singular cocktails, whereas Boston cocktails are numerous and without apparent rhyme or reason.
In a comment on that previous post, a reader named Mike said, “The ‘Boston’ refers to the use of rum and limes. Boston had a huge trade in molasses and rum with the Caribbean back in the day.” Sure, I know about the historic molasses/rum industry (largely concentrated in Medford), but I don’t see how rum and limes connote a Boston cocktail. I mean, a) tons of cocktails use rum and limes, and b) many Boston-named cocktails call for neither.
When it comes to questions about rum drinks, my go-to source is Old Mr. Medford (aka Brother Cleve), so I passed Mike’s comment by him. He scoured his old cocktail books and came up with a list of Boston-named cocktails, which I have included on the Boston cocktails – old page. This list confirms that drinks named after ol’ Beantown are all over the map.
“There are no stories attached to these recipes,” says Cleve. “The Sour and Sidecar are from a very early Old Mr. Boston book , but Boothby’s [World Drinks And How To Mix Them (1934)] predates that. The Boston Cooler is listed in a number of books. I assume these were served at some popular restaurant or hotel here. Possibly S.S. Pierce had something to do with this?”